Case Study: Zenex Foundation: School support

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The Zenex Foundation implemented a School Development Programme (SDP) in four provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Western Cape and Gauteng) from 2007 and 2011. The Programme provided support to primary and high schools to improve learner performance in Maths, Science and language. The aim was to strengthen learner performance in a pipeline of learners from primary to high school. Support was provided to learners, teachers, school leadership and district officials in an attempt to sustain Programme gains beyond the life of the project.

The SDP was rolled out in two phases. Phase I was from 2007 to 2009 by 24 service providers in 72 schools (49 primary and 23 high schools) across the four provinces. An independent evaluation ran parallel to the roll out of the intervention. The findings of the first formative evaluation two years into implementation led to a review of the SDP in 2009.

The review highlighted that:

  • the integrity of the Programme was compromised as service providers in each province were delivering differentiated interventions.
  • some of the schools on the Programme were not ready for programme uptake.
  • When using service providers to deliver school improvement interventions, programmes must decide whether to standardise the inputs (dosage and approach) made by different service providers or have providers use their own products and approaches.
  • When selecting schools for interventions,  the levels of school functionality need to be taken into consideration as this can determine the level of commitment and uptake of the intervention.
  • There is a correlation between learners doing more and longer exercises (particularly longer pieces of written work) and their test results.
  • There is no correlation and almost no relationship between workshop attendance by teachers and teaching and learning in the classrooms of teachers who attended workshops in this intervention.
  • Interventions, particularly for the earlier grades, should be designed to address accumulated learning backlogs.

The review process led to realignment of key Programme elements, including setting common outcomes, targets and a common approach across all provinces. Phase II of the SDP was conceptualised and rolled out in a two-year cycle from 2010 to 2011 in 47 schools (32 primary and 15 high schools).

Theme

Systemic school support

Lessons Learnt

The lessons from the SDP relate both to the design and findings of the intervention. Key lessons related to the design included: · When using service providers to deliver school improvement interventions, programmes must decide whether to standardise the inputs (dosage and approach) made by different service providers or have providers use their own products and approaches. · When selecting schools for interventions, the levels of school functionality need to be taken into consideration as this can determine the level of commitment and uptake of the intervention. With regard to the findings of the intervention, the following lessons stood out: · There is a correlation between learners doing more and longer exercises (particularly longer pieces of written work) and their test results. · There is no correlation and almost no relationship between workshop attendance by teachers and teaching and learning in the classrooms of teachers who attended workshops in this intervention. · Interventions, particularly for the earlier grades, should be designed to address accumulated learning backlogs. Given that, teacher training activities should focus on those parts of the curriculum that present learners with the greatest difficulty as the intervention cannot support all aspects of the curriculum covered in normal teaching time.